- by Ian Fraser Rating:8 Release Date:2016-03-04 Label: Sub Pop
Supergroups. I have a bit of a problem with them. You see not many of them are that super and while the idea of this and that pairing might appeal on paper, for whatever reason (egos, label demands, compromises, incompatibility) the sum seldom does justice to the component parts.
So it was with a bit of trepidation that I approached what, in concept, looked like a mouth-watering union of the divine Meg Baird and the demonic Comets on Fire (represented here by Noel Von Harmonson and Ethan Miller), both of whom I have been known to venerate. I was unsure how this would play out. There was always the prospect that it would on the scale of disappointment of finding out that there’s no Father Christmas, your dad wasn’t the biggest, strongest and smartest guy on the block and that girls fart, all in the space of 40 minutes.
Well what do I know, because Heron Oblivion turn all of that on its head as they put folk-rock through the psychedelic wringer to produce something timeless and strange but also infectious and hugely appealing. All credit then to the superlative way in which the fiery Comets, ex-Esper Baird (on drums as well as pure and disarming vocal) and Charlie Sauffley from Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound on second guitar manage to complement each other. All the more credit because other than Sauffley all the members play instruments with which they are not usually associated.
“Beneath Fields” is the melodic and rather understated opener, yet it immediately draws you in and stamps the template for what is to come – acid rock with a winsome yet authoritative folk sensitivity, in which Baird’s crystalline tones weave over and around the tasty psychedelic grooves. When it does cut loose in the midsection, Von Harmonson and Sauffley sound like Eddie Hazel and Jorma Kaukonen locked in a best of three falls or submission. An overly long opening statement in one sense but, just like a tube of Pringles, while you really think it’s time to stop you can’t stop dipping in and there’s that same sense of loss when there’s no more to gorge on.
While the guitar duals remain combustible they represent more of a controlled blaze than the blasting firestorms we’ve been used to with the Comets. This comparative restraint is both admirable and effective, giving each band member the room to breathe and stretch out. The overall effect is as if Fairport Convention had morphed into Crazy Horse instead of becoming cloistered in Cecil Sharp House. The epic “Rama” is a case in point, Baird’s graceful crooning contrasting wonderfully with the dual squall of guitars. Elsewhere it’s a bit edgier such as on the suspenseful “Faro” which sounds like Alice dynamiting the rabbit hole as she careers ever downwards, Best of all is “Your Hollows”, another fiercely sublime slow burner on which Baird’s voice soars and then hovers angelically to the point that it brings a lump to the throat. Then just like those Pringles it’s all gone and you’re left wanting more. Again.
“Supergroups”? Well and truly redeemed in my eyes.
Just got around to hearing this, and I love it. Great review Ian.